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tv   Washington Week  PBS  May 1, 2010 5:00am-5:30am EDT

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gwen: this was the week when the best laid plans went awry on energy and immigration policy, on the wall street crackdown and florida politics. we'll explain the how's and the why's tonight on "washington week." >> this is a spill of national significance. gwen: hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil threatening a huge natural disaster in the gulf. >> local economies, livelihoods of people on the gulf coast as well as the ecology of the region are at stake. >> wind power, nuclear, clean coal, offshore oil drilling. do it risks outweigh the benefits? and thanks to a top new arizona law, will energy reform also be knocked off course by a renewed debate over immigration?
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>> decades of federal inaction and misguided policy have created a dangerous and unacceptable situation. >> in florida, one rising republican star gets knocked off course and out of his party by another. >> my decision to run for the united states senate as a candidate without party affiliation in many ways says more about our nation and our state than it does about me. >> i know this campaign is not about me. it's about what i'm running for and what i'm running on. >> and a proposed wall street crackdown gets knocked back on course after a dramatic capitol hill showdown. >> should goldman sachs be trying to sell [bleep] deals? well, can you answer that one? can you answer that one yes or no? >> covering the week, margaret kriz hobson of "national journal," naftali bendavid of the "wall street journal," karen tumulty of "the washington post," and eamon javers of
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"politico." >> award-winning reporting and analysis, covering history as it happens. live from our nation's capital, this is "washington week" with gwen ifill. produced in association with "national journal." corporate funding for "washington week" is provided by -- >> harnessing the power of competitive markets and clean energy technologies, like nuclear, wind, solar and increased efficiency to achieve a more secure energy future. constellation energy. >> additional funding for "washington week" is provided by boeing. exxonmobil. pepsi. the annenberg foundation. the corporation for public broadcasting and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. once again, live from washington, moderator gwen
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ifill. gwen: good evening. the news just keeps getting worse in the gulf of mexico. with 200,000 gallons of oil gushing each day from far beneath the sea, last week's oil rig accident has suddenly changed the calculus for national energy policy. a president who endorsed additional offshore oil drilling and who, just this week, backed a plan to build energy-producing windmills offshore as well is now on the defensive. e.p.a. administrator lisa jackson was part of a phalanx of federal officials dispatched to the gulf today. >> we will stay as long as we need to to make sure that we are ready and able to be partners in response to support all the local governments who are out there, who are trying to stand up their people and get their communities ready for this response. >> we think it's best to hope for the best while we prepare for the worst. >> at the same time, the great tripartisan senate energy bill hit an unexpected pothole this week.
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how much has this oil spill changed the political and policy calculus, margie? >> well, it was starting to go downhill even before the oil spill got to be the big headlines. you had, last weekend, one of the main people who was writing that bill, the only republican involved with it, decided to withdraw because he was afraid that climate change was going to be overpowered by immigration law and all of the other -- >> lindsay graham. >> right, lindsay graham. so he said, i'm out of here. until you guys take immigration off the table, i'm going to withdraw. well, that left two guys, senator kerry and senator lieberman, who were feeling like, well, if we don't have a republican, it's kind of hard to introduce anything. >> that was before the oil slick became so big that it completely turned everything upside down. >> right. so at that point they were saying, well, you might be able to get a climate bill going, but then the oil spill came.
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and president obama specifically included oil drilling in his plan, in his state of the union address. it was in the bill itself. and the whole purpose was to attract republicans. but now you have democrats saying, if there's oil spill, if there's oil drilling in this bill, if you are allowing more oil drilling in the bill, then i'm out of here. so you had all of these new jersey democrats and coastal state democrats saying we have to stop this right now. >> why was it that nobody sort of saw this coming? we heard about the spill. it seemed to be a minor thing, and suddenly it exploded into a big national score, and we hear about these massive amounts of ocean that are covered with oil. how did it go from so small to so huge? >> it is a deep well. when they say ocean, they mean it goes a mile down in the ocean. this is an area where the oil is so far down, it's way deep into the area that it's just -- it just doesn't -- nobody knows
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exactly what's happening down there. i mean, you had the whole thing collapse. it was starting to come out of the ground. but nobody knew just how much was coming out of the ground. it wasn't until it started to percolate up on to the ocean that you started to see it. >> so is this barack obama's katrina moment? how is the administration responding to this, and how competently are they responding to this? >> well, i think they're doing a pretty good job at this point. they let b.p. handle it at first, because b.p. said they could handle it. they said it's really not that bad. we have the booms and things like that to put around the oil spill. gwen: so, wait a second. we allow the company that's behind the problem police itself and we said, ok. for how long? >> for about a week. as long as we thought that it wasn't too bad. we sent the coast guard down. we had all kinds of people down there. but today you saw about half of his cabinet go down, make a big scene about it all. and what the president is saying now is there's not going to be
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any new oil drilling offshore until they do an investigation of the whole thing. however, he's not saying that it stops any new oil drilling off a coast. >> the administration aside, i mean, the whole drill, baby, drill, that was one of the slogans 6 a lot of republican candidates. i wonder how they are reacting to this kind of disaster. >> we have, they've disappeared. for the most part you have a lost republicans who are simply not available anymore or who are expressing concern about this. mary landrieu, the democrat from louisiana, is expressing a lot of concern, even though in the past she said this kind of a spill could not occur. >> but then we have, of course, sarah palin, from alaska, who was miss drill, baby, drill, and she came out today and said this is not the kind of drilling she was talking about. her her state was also the one that suffered when the exxon valdez accident happened more than 20 years ago. how does this compare to that? >> this is now being looked at potentially as bad or worse than
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the exxon valdez. we won't know until they really start to calculate how much oil is coming out and how long it stays open without being capped. they don't know how to do that when you're talking about this deep ocean drilling. gwen: one of the things that was different about the exxon valdez is it was a ship, and this is coming from underground where we don't know where it ends. >> absolutely. gwen: so how many balls can washington keep in the air at once? not many. but this week we saw immigration suddenly back on the front burner as an arizona law designed to help seal that state's border with mexico upended the washington debate. >> what i think is a mistake is when we start having the law enforcement officials empowered to stop people off a suspicion that they may be undocumented workers. >> we must acknowledge the truth. people across america are watching arizona, seeing how we
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implement this law, ready to jump on even the slightest missteps. >> she's right. everybody is watching arizona. what is it about this issue that never goes away, comes up periodically in washington and it shakes everything up? why? >> well, it's always an emotional issue. and it goes so directly to what kind of a country we think we are. the people who want tight immigration, restrictions, talk about having shared values and shared culture. the people who favor more relaxed immigration laws talk about being a welcoming country, that opens its arms to people who are needy. but there's additional things going on now. for one thing, we're at a time of great economic unease and distress. it's not unreasonable to expect that people are more worried about that sort of thing. and then this arizona law came along and lit the fuse and the whole thing blew up. gwen: the fouse was always there, and we can assume that the administration did not have
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it high on its list of things to do this year, but now it's forced to handle it in some way. and that's why the democrats stepped up yesterday. >> i think that's a lot of it. a lot of people in the hispanic community were expecting and hoping that the administration would do more faster to rewrite the nation's immigration laws. but the fact is, it was kinds of at the back of the line behind health care and behind redoing the financial industry. and then this bill in arizona just kind of blew up and forced the democrats' hands and they felt like they had very little choice but to respond and to show the hispanic community, by is a big supporter of democratic candidates, that they were going to take action about this. >> are they looking for action, or are they looking for an issue here, the democrats? what really are the chances, with so much else going on, of something actually getting done this year? >> for one thing, it's not clear to me at all that they have the votes. they don't have a single republican that's in favor of this bill that the democrats are talking about now. it's not clear that they have all the democrats and it's an inflammatory issue.
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it generates huge emotions. they just did health care. they're doing banking regulations. i'm not sure necessarily that they want to do immigration reform right now. there is a timing issue. the senate has to confirm a supreme court justice. there's an election coming up. there's a lot of things on their plate. congress isn't good at doing a lot of things at once. my sense is this is something they'll use to energize the hispanic community and this is something that won't necessarily pass this year. >> is it going to be difficult for the republican party? it could be political poison in some area. >> it's will have till terrain for both parties. but the republican party is split, and they've had prominent republicans that have come out against this arizona law. whereas other, john mccain for one, coming out in favor of it. politically speaking, there's pressure points, if you. . on the one hands, a lot of their base, the republican activists, are in favor of tough immigration laws. but they also know that the hispanic community is a big, growing part of the electorate
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and alienating them for the foreseeable future isn't something that they'll relish doing. >> bill clinton came out this week and said we need more immigrants in this country. he made it sort of a fiscal thing, getting the nation's finances in order. but can democrats be the party that says we need more immigrants going into this election? isn't there a huge risk there? >> absolutely. i think there's a risk for both parties, that's why you're seeing both parties tread somewhat carefully. because, again, mrs. a certain amount of emotion and a -- there's a certain amount of emotion and a feeling against relaxed immigration policy, especially at a time like this, when you have a very high jobless rate. people are not feeling not only economically that the country is on the wrong track, and at times like that all the concerns that people feel about, as they see it, opening the floodgates to a whole bunch of new people, all those concerns get accentuated. so you're seeing both parties tread with a certain amount of care. gwen: how draconian is the arizona law itself really? and are there other states which are already signaling that they might follow in its path? >> there are other states that
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are signaling that they're considering it. in a lot of statements, particularly in the south, the discussion has arisen about is this something appropriate in our state. in texas, the governor is saying i respect with the arizona people did, but it's not necessarily right for texas. the thing that's grabbed people's attention about this law is one provision among many that says that police, if they have a reasonable suspicion -- gwen: a reasonable suspicion. >> a reasonable suspicion. and that is not specified in the law what might go into making that determination. it's very vague. that they then have to question that person and determine if they are in fact illegal. and that's conjured up all kinds of images, particularly among civil libertarians about brown-skinned people being stopped, people being stopped on the basis of how they look, just some police officer who thinks they might be an illegal alien. so it's engendered a huge reaction. it's certainly going to be settled in the courts and people are reacting strongly to it, including the president. gwen: we'll have a couple of questions we'll take in our webcast about that very
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question. we'll get to them. as you can tell, political up in hopefully is not limited to washington. in florida, a once-popular governor's fall from the voters' grace is demonstrating what a free-for-all this fall's selections could turn out to be. what does charlie crist's defection from the g.o.p. tell us what we can expect to see in the next few months? you're just back from florida, karen, tell us all about it. >> well, it tells you in one state you see so many extraordinary things that are happening in this political year. charlie crist, a year ago, was all but a lock for this senate race. he was the republicans' first-round draft pick. he was the only non-incumbent to be endorsed by the party out of washington. he was ahead of his only primary challenger, marco rubio, a former house speaker, by 30 points. marco rubio is now -- was ahead by 20 points. gwen: wow. >> i think what we've seen is a couple of things, probably three big factors that are going on, i think, in varying degrees across the country. one is a radical change in the
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political climate. this is not a year when you want to be the establishment candidate. it's not a year when you want to be an incumbent. second of all, he got caught in what has become a struggle within the republican party for its own soul. not only is he in trouble, but in arizona we've seen john mccain essentially having a primary race where the question is whether the man who was the presidential nominee in 2008 is conservative enough. in utah, bob bennett, a longtime senator, may not get his party's nomination. and then finally, there were some things that charlie crist himself did, some apostrophes that were just too much for his party, starting with his embrace, literally and figuratively, of barack obama early last year when the president came to florida to sell his stimulus plan. an more recently, his veto of an education bill that was really championed by florida conservatives. gwen: by the time he vetoed that
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bill, isn't it widely assumed that he signed his own death warrants with the republicans? >> that veto was, in effect, a sort of goodbye note to his party. >> so, karen, the question that it seems like a lot of the democrats are asking and others is whether there's still a place in the republican party for moderates. you hear a lot about the demise of the rockefeller republicans. and that's just a question that inevitably is going to come up. >> ironically enough, the republicans stand to make some big gains in the senate this year, in part becausener nominating moderate candidates -- they are nominating moderate candidates. in illinois, they could win barack obama votes. congressman mike kaplan in delaware could win joe biden's old seat, and certainly scott brown in massachusetts, as much as the conservatives rejoiced over that victory, this is a guy who is for roe v. wade, has a real good enviral record and his second vote in the senate was to block his own party's fullback of a jobs bill.
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-- filibuster of a jobs bill. >> and kirk as well. >> he's standing a chance of winning barack obama's old seat. >> could this possibly work for cyst? he'll lose all the fund-raising advantage you have of being in a party and republicans aren't going to write checks to him. >> well, florida remains, as we all learned in 2000, one of the closely-divided states in the country politically. what this has done is opened up a three-way race between marco rubio, the republican, charlie crist, the new independent, and a democratic candidate, kendrick meek, a miami area congressman, who people didn't think had much of a shot. even a few weeks ago. now he is a real contender. and i think the outcome of this race is anybody's guess. gwen: is it possible this is his best week ever, kendrick meek? >> actually, he got a primary opponent today, a billionaire named jeff green. by the way, there's an interesting ethnic element in all of this, in that marco rubio
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is an hispanic. kendrick meek is an african. there are so many levels of florida politics going on. >> so is he the republicans' version of joe lieberman, who was a democrat and moved to the independent line? >> there are some big diffles. i mean, joe lieberman actually ran in the primary and lost it. charlie crist walked away from it. and a lot of people in florida are very bitter about that, particularly people who contributed to his campaign. i mean, they -- a lot of republicans think he should have taken the hit, made it through the primary. >> so that's going to hurt him. >> it could. it depends on how many of his fundraisers walk away from him, how much of his campaign staff -- gwen: a lot of them left. >> and are going to continue to do this. gwen: we know what the lessons are for republican as they try to figure out their way, but what about for democrats? are there lessons nationwide for democrats for these kinds of races? >> i think what this has done on both sides is made people turn to their base, which, again,
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goes back to why you're seeing immigration come up. i mean, democrats are realizing that with the republicans so energized this year, they really have to do something that nrlizes their voters. there are a lot more democrats in florida than there used to be, but that's because of barack obama. and there's a real question whether those people will actually show up for midterm elections. >> well, we'll move on to capitol hill, where there was a lot of high dudgeon, as if there wasn't anyplace elseespecially when senators trained , their fire on goldman sachs. >> all of you were chasing each other. what you were worried about was a bat article in the "wall street journal," not a regulator. >> i wish there were things we could have done better in hindsight. but i don't think we did anything wrong. >> and that was the clean stuff. in the end, the goldman sachs wrist-slap did serve one purpose -- it caused republicans who were delaying action on the financial regulatory reform bill to blink. why is that, eamon? >> well, part of the reason why
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was because they had to leave that hearing and walk over to the senate floor and cast votes that were going to be portrayed as votes for wall street. and here they are beating up on goldman sachs inside the hearing room. it was a very fascinating moment. and it was more than a moment. this was an 11-hour hearing. the first panel, which you just saw there, those four guys testified for five hours straight without a bathroom break. i mean, it was an astonishing grilling. and they didn't move off the goldman sachs talking point at all during that entire five hours. it was really a thing to watch. gwen: i'm curious about the three consecutive defeats of the democrats appeared to suffer when they were trying to bring the bill to the floor. in the end, when the republicans blinked, it began to look as if maybe that was part of the design. they wanted to force those votes. >> it was. the democrats wanted to use those votes to say the republicans are the party of big wall street. remember the bailouts, remember the bonuses, remember a.i.g. >> it took three votes before they figured that out. >> a lot of republicans
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resentsed the fact that this was being drawn up by democrats. they wanted to see it at the table. they said this is a vote for a bipartisan bill. that was their line. but after three votes, it became sort of untenable. they just didn't want to be in that position to continue to cast those votes and democrats threatened to keep them in overnight, vote after vote, until they cracked, and they finally said uncle. >> winning by losing, an old washington technique. >> that's right. >> but there's been a lot of speculation about the timing of this goldman investigation. it certainly couldn't have come along at a better time for the democrats and for the administration. >> absolutely. i mean, a lot of folks at goldman sachs, you know, have been muttering privately that, hey, wait a second, barack obama's s.e.c. filed civil braud charges against us the week before he's making this big push in congress for this financial reform bill. how could that be anything but a coincidence? gwen: if it wasn't for those damning he have h-emails, they probably could have gotten away
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with it. >> it would have been pan astonishing thing if the white house would have interfered with the s.e.c., and they, of course, said we didn't do that, this is the result of a long-running investigation. >> how has the president handled this whole thing? has he used it in some way politically? >> he has, but he's had to straddle this. on the one hand he wants to say this is an independent s.e.c. investigation. i had nothing to do with it. my administration has nothing to do with it. but on the other handled, they're sort of gleefl that goldman sachs is on the hot seat right as they are bringing this bim. the timing work for them in a big way. they're tempted to take shots at goldman, even while saying we had nothing to do with this. >> what happens going forward? how fast is this legislation going to be brought up and can something like this pass? >> it can absolutely pass. i think it will pass. i think a lot of republicans will end up voting for it in the end, for the same reason they ended up voting to begin the debate and break the filibuster. it's untenable, with the amount of anger that's out there on wall street. in terms of timing, there's folks who said memorial day.
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that's probably early. but it's going to pass relatively soon, because i think republicans have said this thing is a done deal. let's move on. gwen: you and i were both at a fiscal summit, because we are wonks at heart. and one of the speakers was former president bill clinton. he was asked about all this, an maybe it's because he's married to the former senator of new york, but he didn't sound like he was that damning of goldman sachs. >> he sounded a lot like he was an ally of goldman sachs. this was an astonishing political moment. you have bill clinton, the former democratic president, coming out and throwing cold water on the s.e.c. that's run by an obama appointee. what bill clinton said is he's not so sure they broke the law when they did what they did. that's astonishing from a former president. gwen: if they didn't break the law, is it astonishing that maybe it should have been? >> that's what the folks have been saying on capitol hill. interestingly, sows san collins, the republican senator -- susan collins, is really being courted
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by goldman sachs. she wanted to know why they didn't have a loyalty to their own clients in this. now, you can see some of that is going to find its way into this regulatory reform bill in an effort to get her vote, among others. >> so much to watch about. so many moving parts. we love that, thank you, everyone. the treadmill never stops. we must. but the conversation continues online on the "washington week webcast extra." we take your questions, and answer a few of our own at pbs.org/washingtonweek. later tonight on most pbs stations, you'll be able to watch the final installment of "bill moyers' journal." bill's decided to step away from weekly television and with that, step away from our living rooms. but i don't believe for a minute he's really going away. his voice and his attitude have never been needed more than they are right now. so i don't say goodbye, bill, just good night, and see you next week on "washington week." captioned by the national captioning institute --www.ncicap.org--
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